The tight end group as a whole performed very well at the 2022 NFL Combine, but a select few distinguished themselves with testing that went above and beyond. One of those few was Maryland TE Chigoziem Okonkwo, whose scouting report has him rising ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Chigoziem Okonkwo NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Tight End
- School: Maryland
- Current Year: Senior
- Height: 6’2 1/2″
- Weight: 238 pounds
- Wingspan: 32 3/4″
- Length: 78 1/8″
- Hand: 9 3/4″
Chigoziem Okonkwo Scouting Report
The most popular mold of tight end these days is the Travis Kelce type — the hulking, 6’5″ behemoth who doubles as a seam threat and a red-zone weapon. Obviously, Kelce is the maximum projection for a player with that size — and that’s what makes that size so appealing. But there are other archetypes worth knowing as well. Okonkwo is just one example.
Okonkwo doesn’t have the eye-popping measurements that other tight ends do, but he makes up for it with his unique skills at the position. What makes Okonkwo such an interesting prospect, and more importantly, where does he project in the NFL?
Okonkwo’s athletic profile
Right away, Okonkwo falls short of the traditional mold at tight end. He measures at 6’2 1/2″ and 238 pounds. He does have good proportional length with near-33-inch arms, however, and he also has exceptional athleticism for his size. Okonkwo came in with a 4.52 40-yard dash and a 35.5-inch vertical at the NFL Combine, and that athleticism is visible on film.
Okonkwo has the speed and acceleration to stretch the seam and work into space. He’s fairly explosive out of his stance, and he’s also a twitchy mover who can pressure DBs one way and break another. Beyond his RAC work, Okonkwo’s explosiveness also shows up in his route running. He shows good acceleration out of his breaks. He can sink and explode outside with relative ease.
Okonkwo has the necessary athleticism, but his frame is also a big part of his athletic profile. The Maryland TE has a dense frame, and with it comes great contact balance. Okonkwo has a strong center of gravity, and he keeps his legs churning through contact. He can withstand and absorb hits, and he can also stiff-arm and shed arm tackles in space. Okonkwo is a great run-after-catch threat, and a lot of that ability stems from his physical makeup.
Okonkwo’s athleticism and frame also afford him great versatility. He can line up inline or in the slot, and he can be used as an H-back on option plays.
Execution beyond the physical traits
When we talk about Okonkwo’s operational strengths, we have to start with his blocking ability. The Maryland TE is, bar none, one of the better tight ends in the class at blocking. He’s fundamentally sound, with a good base and solid leverage. He stands tall in pass protection but is aggressive as a run blocker. He’ll shoot his hands and attack the torso, and he can capitalize on imbalanced opponents, driving them into the dirt.
Going further, Okonkwo can play as a lead blocker out of the backfield, and he understands and processes blocking angles effectively. The Maryland TE can quickly pop defenders and stack blocks when faced with 2-on-1’s. Unsurprisingly, that physicality translates to other parts of Okonkwo’s game. Especially after the catch, he’s willing to lower his shoulder and finish plays forward.
As a route runner and receiver, Okonkwo also shows promise. He has some suddenness running routes and can sink his hips and chop his feet quickly at the stem. Moreover, the Maryland TE has shown he can use quick head fakes ahead of his stems, and he can accelerate swiftly out of his breaks.
Moving onward, Okonkwo flashes the awareness to sit in open zones. At the catch point, he’s shown he can actively seek out the ball with his hands, most often in the short range. And he also flashes the toughness to haul in passes amidst contact.
Areas for improvement
As a receiver, Okonkwo is still a work in progress. The Maryland TE still has room to sink his hips more on out routes. He can also get his eyes around quicker when cutting his stems. Okonkwo rounds his breaks at times and isn’t always sharp or precise. His footwork can be more consistent. While he has fast feet, they aren’t always calculated or controlled. Moreover, Okonkwo can expand his route tree, as it mainly consists of outs, flat routes, and seams.
Additionally, Okonkwo’s zone awareness can be spotty. He sometimes over-runs gaps and plays himself out of separation. At the catch point, he naturally doesn’t offer the same size and length that other tight ends have in contested situations. His focus and coordination can run hot and cold, and he sometimes resorts to body catching. When he has to extend beyond his frame, drops are more frequent.
While a very good athlete, Okonkwo isn’t quite a walking mismatch. His frame is a bit high-cut, and he doesn’t have elite lateral agility or elusiveness in space. He’s agile enough, but he can be a bit leggy as a mover and has room to be more efficient.
Among other things, Okonkwo — while strong as a blocker — isn’t perfect. He’s aggressive and has sound technique, but he lacks elite strength, which shows up against defensive ends at times. He occasionally gets grabby against larger players, and he can be inconsistent in maintaining his anchor.
Okonkwo’s 2022 NFL Draft scouting report overview
A lot of eyes turned to Okonkwo’s film after his NFL Combine performance. And for those who prefer strong run-after-catch ability in their tight ends, they likely weren’t disappointed. Okonkwo is a dense athlete with great contact balance and physicality after the catch. His versatility allows him to line up at H-back as a blocker, take quick passes out of the backfield, and rack up yards.
Beyond that, however, Okonkwo has upside as a receiver and a separator. Especially at the Shrine Bowl, Okonkwo had more 1-on-1 opportunities against defensive backs, and he proved he could use quick, methodical footwork and easy hip sink to separate. Out of his breaks, he’s explosive and can gain separation quickly. And with his proportional length, he has a wide enough catch radius to work against defensive backs.
Factor in Okonkwo’s speed and explosiveness, and all the tools are there for him to be a versatile, dynamic tight end at the next level. He can still refine his route running further, and he can be a bit more consistent with his hands. He also isn’t the best red zone or seam threat with his size. But for creative offensive minds, Okonkwo is a player you can move all around, use in all phases, and feature as a RAC threat in the short and intermediate ranges. Early Day 3 is likely his range even now, but he can be a great value addition.
Okonkwo’s Player Profile
Hailing from Powder Springs, Georgia, Okonkwo played at Hillgrove High School, where he first established a reputation as one of the nation’s rising talents at tight end. He produced enough to the point where he earned a three-star recruit billing in the 2018 class. From there, interest started to pour in.
After testing well athletically, Okonkwo received offers from several Power Five schools. Wisconsin and in-state program Georgia Tech both vied for his services. So too did Navy. But Okonkwo instead chose to sign with the Maryland Terrapins.
Okonkwo’s career at Maryland
Okonkwo’s career at Maryland was a tumultuous one, filled with uncertainty. But it’s ultimately a career in which he came out on top. His true freshman year was standard, simply accruing experience at the collegiate level. The Maryland TE logged 6 receptions for 69 yards and a score while also taking 3 carries for 72 yards and 2 additional touchdowns.
Okonkwo’s freshman year was a sign of things to come, and his role expanded slightly in 2019. Used as a hybrid tight end/wide receiver, Okonkwo now amassed 19 catches for 201 yards and 2 scores. He was expected to become a premier threat in the Maryland offense in 2020, but a health scare stopped him in his tracks.
In March of 2020, Okonkwo checked into a hospital after feeling pain in his chest. He was soon diagnosed with myocarditis — an inflammation of the heart muscle that can be caused by COVID infection. At first, Okonkwo wanted to get back before the 2020 campaign. But it soon became clear that the illness was worse than expected. He used the coming months to rest and recover, and by spring camp in 2021, he was starting to ease his way back in.
It was an uncertain time for Okonkwo, but the Maryland TE emerged on the other side. He caught 52 passes for 447 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2021, breaking out as one of the Terrapins’ top targets. He earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors as a result and was invited to the East-West Shrine Game, where he continued to strengthen his reputation.
Okonkwo’s NFL Draft ascension
Okonkwo won’t meet every team’s size threshold at the tight end position. But for teams that crave athleticism, run-after-catch ability, and versatility, he brings a lot to offer.
With his 4.52 speed and explosiveness upfield, Okonkwo can easily get into space. And once in space, he has the physicality, measured agility, and contact balance to keep churning out yards. Tack on his blocking ability, and he can be a solid contributor early on.
Tony Pauline’s Scouting Report on Chigoziem Okonkwo
Positives: Developing tight end who followed up a solid senior season with outstanding practices at the Shrine Bowl. Remains disciplined with blocking assignments, keeps his head on a swivel, and stays square. Explosive, fires off the snap into blocks, and keeps his feet moving.
Fluid releasing off the line of scrimmage as a pass catcher, runs solid routes for a big man, and nicely adjusts to make receptions in stride. Reaches back to grab errant passes from the air, snatches the ball out of the air, and shows soft as well as quick hands. Makes a lot of athletic plays on the field.
Negatives: Must improve his playing balance. Falls off blocks rather than finishing off opponents.
Analysis: Okonkwo is a nice-sized, pass-catching tight end who plays to his 40 time, is not a liability blocking, and has shown terrific development in his game. Okonkwo possesses a good amount of upside and has the tools necessary to eventually develop into a productive No. 2 tight end.